The Stars Look Down


It wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last. Like an angry Hebrew God, he creates things and then, in fits of pique, destroys them.

Sometimes, on the web, communities end because money runs out. Not the case here. Sometimes they end because one company buys another, and that is almost never good for anyone except a couple guys who get rich. Again, not the case here. No money changed hands or ever would have. This was an exchange far below the radar of the venture capitalists who flatten the earth in their endless quest for the gold that leaks from bubbles before they pop.

Here we had a smallish but passionate international community of fun, bright people who not only amused but, yes, loved each other. Now it’s gone. Just like that, poof.

Alas, stars on Twitter have become mere take-out menus hung on the doors of other restaurants.


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150 thoughts on “The Stars Look Down

  1. Your article seems to outline exactly why you should continue your brilliant Tweeting despite the occasional back-pat.

  2. Just a note lest I be misunderstood. As Dean Allen’s friend and admirer, I support him in whatever he wishes to do. But as a creator of web content and web communities I am disheartened by this wanton abandonment of a community.

    That a community may no longer please its creator is hardly relevant. Once community exists, it is not about the person who created the conditions for its existence; it’s about the people who inhabit the space. If you don’t believe that, you have no business creating anything.

    Cutting users off out of necessity is sad. Cutting them off because you no longer enjoy the community is selfish, short-sighted, and narcissistic. Nothing, not even the tremendous respect and affection I bear for the talented Mr Allen, can make me see it any other way.

  3. Favrd will be missed… but I have to say, he had valid reasons to shut it down. It wasn’t an ego boast or fame or pride. It was deeper and yet simple. It makes us twitter app developers think twice about what we are creating…

  4. It was a wonderful thing—on some days, the only sane-making thing. How hard would it be to re-create it?

  5. I’m not particularly connected to one of the communities I maintain and I absolutely agree. I would never pull the plug because it no longer pleased me. Community is a precious thing.

  6. And the laws of the Universe unfold again and show us that not everything was meant to last forever.

    (easily said, since I missed on the whole Favrd business in the first place)

  7. Favrd, like Twitter itself, was only as annoying, fun, shallow, or rewarding as each individual user made it. You can choose to drown by the firehose or just sip from a small tap. You can eat all the junk food that comes your way, or you can wait for the occasional small delicacy.

    I don’t know Mr. Allen, but his writing suggests that he’s far too intelligent to have entirely forgotten how much meaningless noise 90% of the crowd generates. Favrd allowed me to filter out a lot of that noise, just as Twitter does.

  8. Your post brought up some very valid points about community and those who create and run them. I feel, as you do, once you create a community, it is no longer prudent to decide to shut it down over hurt feelings.

    I was not a frequent user of Favrd (came into the game a tad later than most), but I can understand the sadness, anger, and confusion of its dedicated members.

    When one great website closes its doors, another one will undoubtedly open. Right now Favstar is the monopoly but I’m sure others will try to re-build what Favrd has so selfishly torn down.

    Viva Twitter!

  9. I have some sympathy to your viewpoint here, but more for the other side. Some “communities” turn on you or use that community as a way to improve their own lot, leaving you in their dust. Is either of those what happened here? I doubt it. Maybe he just had enough. It could have been a rash decision, but it’s his to make.

    The creator always has the right to say enough is enough. If you’re the sole proprietor, I lean more toward the side that gives you life-or-death control over the “community.” I don’t have a socialist model of online community for those cases. If you aren’t the only administrator, though, the situation changes, but that is not the case here.

    I tend to agree that a sole proprietor really does own all the marbles and can march right home with them if he wants. I disagree the founder of a “community” owes you anything.

  10. Dean Allen is one of the greatest minds of our time. He has given us so much in the form of wit, oliver, textpattern, textism, cartigan, RTFM, and more. It’s important that he continues on with new ventures to stay creative and relevant which is exactly what twitter hasn’t done (thus tossing out the old and coming in with the new). All this is typical DA and I can’t wait for the next thing, whatever it is.

  11. It’s his creation and the choice is his own, but this outright abandonment of a community is a tad disheartening. The people who (in Dean’s eyes, I’d suspect) ruined Favrd were the idiots who used it only as a way to “GET STARS” for their own self worth and ego boost. These people stand out from the crowd and it’s obvious they only care about themselves.

    I think there could have been some modifications to the site – particularly, not showing the number of stars a person received, and just rank the top tweets of the day – that would have kept the competition fun and community aspect rolling…and forced the people who only care about stars to stick to a service like Favstar. Who said we needed to “see” the star counts? It would’ve leveled the playing field a bit more.

    I’ve put it this way before: As a writer and non-sports watcher, Favrd was my fantasy football.

  12. I call bullshit. It is not the responsibility of anyone to enable the interests and dependencies of others. If Favrd had been some blog with thousands of link and comment contributors, its purveyor would have every right to nix it in an instant without regard for the “community” it served. We are not talking about feeding the poor, stopping genocide, or other defense-worthy causes. Although I enjoyed it, and drank from its numerous spigots, it was not an offering of its contributors; rather, it was an offering by its creator. So, let’s qualify the value of the asset, but only while concurrently respecting the autonomy, intellect, and choices of its owner/manager. Buy the domain and code, become the altruistic and selfless owner/manager, and operate the entertaining portal of self-indulgence, but don’t then become a puppet to it, or to the community. That would be the real tragedy, in my opinion.

  13. It’s a hard lesson to learn: that any beloved service, unless you own it, can change or go away at any minute. Twitter, Facebook, your local deli…anything.

    “Once community exists, it is not about the person who created the conditions for its existence; it’s about the people who inhabit the space. If you don’t believe that, you have no business creating anything.”

    That’s quite a statement. Under that logic, anyone who makes anything should support it indefinitely, as long as there is a community. Should Apple still be supporting the Newton then?

    Nothing runs itself. Perhaps you (or someone in the Favrd community) should offer to watch over the service (and the accompanying hosting and domain fees)?

  14. Being a newbie to a lot of the online communities and Favrd especially I can’t comment upon it’s uses or functionality or what people may have gotten out of it on a personal level. So I will just make a small probably insignificant observation.

    What Dean Allen did in one big fell swoop was kill an entire community which a lot of people (Jeffrey especially it seems) held in high esteem.

    Does the creator of a community online or otherwise have the right to determine whether for one reason or another the community should continue. I think the obvious answer to this is no. This should be determined by the members of the community after all a community is nothing without it’s members.

    Lets put a positive spin on this. I’m sure there are some clever people out there now working on a new and improved favrd replacement. It won’t be long before this community of like minded people will once again be connected. You can’t keep good people down.

  15. Well said, Jeffrey.

    @Dan Saffer: I’d take on responsibility for Favrd in a minute, and I suspect there are plenty of others who would too. And Favrd isn’t a decade old handheld device which is no longer made, it was an active community less than 2 years old. It wasn’t dying down or fading out.

  16. …and that’s the magic of a “community.” Dean doesn’t want to do Favrd anymore? Fine. Someone else will. So he takes his ball and goes home. So what? He has the only ball in the neighborhood???

  17. How hard would it have been to find someone to take it over instead of just pulling the plug? That’s what I’ve done when I grew tired of something I started that still mattered to other people. Doing it acknowledges the needs and feelings of the people who love what you started, and acknowledges, too, that their activity has given your framework meaning. That it wasn’t all just you. Because it never is.

    If you don’t like what some people are doing with your community, there are ways to deal with that, too. You don’t have to blow up the submarine because some people are farting in it.

  18. I’d argue that Favrd stopped being a “community” some time ago.

    I’ve met many great friends because of that site and (as far as I know) they will still my friends now that Favrd is gone. I doubt that if I discovered Favrd today, I would have found any friends in the noise.

    I’m as guilty as anyone for “trying to get stars.” It’s a lot of fun to tell a joke and see it featured on a site. It just seems that Favrd hit a critical mass that changed it from a community into a game.

    Was anyone here on Joshua Davis’ when he decided to “burn the village”? That community didn’t die. Just the website. To this day, I’m still close with people I met there. Several new sites popped up to fill the void and everyone found a new place to hang out. Not to get all sappy in a blog comment, but a true community transcends a single website.

  19. I still have friends I met on Dreamless but the death of Dreamless did leave a void.

    I’m not going to stop being friends with Communicatrix or others I met through Favrd, but the death of Favrd leaves a void.

    I was unaware that it had turned to noise and been hijacked by fools. Was that really the consensus? Were Seoulbrother and Sween secretly hoping that Favrd would disappear? It doesn’t seem so.

    If you disapprove of what your community has turned into, I can see not wanting to perpetuate it on your personal site. Perhaps if Favrd had moved to its own domain for real, it would have been easier for Dean to detach his personal response to it from the needs of those for whom it still worked, and to turn it over to someone else so that it could continue for those who enjoyed it.

  20. 1) HAND IT OVER
    What TJ and Dan Saffer said: Was the process of handing the site to someone else so difficult that Dean couldn’t reasonably be asked to do so? Can’t he still do that, unless he’s deleted the code entirely from his own computer?

    No one argues, Joe, that Dean had a legal obligation to keep the site running. The argument is that his decision to shut down the site without consulting any of the people who used and enjoyed it was selfish and, given the relative ease of other options for offloading it, betrayed a (possibly temporary) carelessness for the feelings and desires of users that presumably made him run the site for so long. I feel justified in pegging him with a social imperative, and saying that he deserves to lose friends if he deletes the site.

    While I don’t like Dean’s decision, I’m sure it was result of email after email, or tweet after tweet or whatever, from frustrated users demanding he change the site to suit their needs. How quickly we all felt entitled to a Favrd that drove our personal favorite users to the top. Loads of us publicly asked for a faves-per-follower ranking because, while we love the much-followed, much-faved Sween, Hotdogsladies, and Abigvictory, we didn’t have much use for a daily list of their tweets. Some of us were civil, but demanding. Others were worse. Still more were whiners. And the worst of it probably came to Dean’s private inboxes. That’s pretty frustrating to a guy who set up a fun toy back when about a hundred people, tops, were using Twitter to be witty at other people using Twitter to be witty.

    Favstar lacks the cleanliness of Favrd, but it is fully featured, large, healthy, catches some faves that Favrd misses (for better and worse), and has an active developer. (It also has a faves-per-follower ranking.) It fulfills most or all of Favrd’s functions. Favrd fans can adapt accordingly.

  21. We are not talking about feeding the poor, stopping genocide, or other defense-worthy causes.

    Yeah, this is kind of a classic way of belittling someone else’s viewpoint, isn’t it. It isn’t about stopping genocide, so it must not be that important, and the person who feels passionately about it must be wrong and a little nuts. No offense, but that’s hardly a fair response.

    If I sounded didactic and preachy, I’m sorry about that. As a person who creates content and community sites and who believes that they’re what’s great about the web, I take it to heart when a site I admire dies. I’m passionate about it because it’s who I am, and you have to be passionate to make anything of any value in any medium.

    I made it personal, and that was wrong, but I’ve know my friend Dean a long time, and while I share his compulsion to create things, I do not share or understand his need to abandon them. In some way I obviously cannot convey to you, I feel that this abandonment trivializes content and community on the web—the very things my friend’s creativity so beautifully emblematizes.

    I don’t know the secret sufferings that made closing the site his best option, but trusting that were legitimate reasons for Dean to uninvolve himself from Favrd, I believe he should have consulted the community first.

  22. While feeling disappointment in the loss of Favrd, I do take comfort in the knowledge that the people and relationships still exist. Sure it’s nice to see a star from one of your friends. It’s nice to know someone out there gets what you’re saying, but that’s only a small part of the greater whole.

    It’s the relationships and the people that matter. I’ve met lots of people, collaborated creatively with a few and even had one stay on my couch during his trip across the country. All wonderful experiences.

    I’m sorry to see the loss of the platform, but the community isn’t going anywhere.

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  24. Mr. Zeldman, you believe he should have consulted the community first. Have you talked to Dean Allen first, AS A FRIEND, before yelling at him in public? Do you know why he did such a horrible thing to the community? Do you care? Friends do that, I suppose.

  25. I think the note on Favrd about it coming to an end is more of a reflection on the other star gathering site, Favstar, and that community’s owner recently lecturing how stars should be delivered, like some sort of soup nazi of stars. These sites simply feed off the stars from Twitter. They’re search engines of sorts that use Twitter to deliver a certain bit of information. Favstar’s recent temper tantrums made Favrd leave with dignity.

  26. I have mixed feelings about this.

    Firstly, it is Dean’s website/application/thing and he is welcome to do with it as he sees fit. We all have darlings on the Internet and, whether they are killed by someone else or we kill them ourselves, they are our’s to do with as we need to.

    Dean created something that became something more important than the thing itself – a way to find people we appreciate in an ever-growing sea of noise on Twitter. Personally, I have found others that have become friends through services like Favrd (including Favstar and Tweeteorities).

    The use of the term “abandonment” strikes me as odd, though. Dean didn’t abandon anyone. We still follow, read and favorite one another. Favrd was way to conduct those interactions, but the relationships are still there.

    In a typical community site, where the entire interaction takes place there, the loss of such a site would kill many relationships. Fortunately, we still have Twitter – the vehicle that Favrd used – to keep in touch.

    But, to my point. Favrd could have easily been handed over to someone to maintain. And, at first I was bothered that option was not exercised. But, if Favrd became – or represented – something that Dean did not like, then it was the right thing to do. His vision and effort should not suffer if the thing he created no longer represents his ideal.

    And, honestly, which one of us wouldn’t love for our creation to go out in spectacular flames instead of a whimpering shell?

  27. This is a very weird discussion for someone who doesn’t know what favrd was.

    Can someone explain? As … it’s not there any more?

  28. Chris Riebschlager: “Was anyone here on Joshua Davis’ when he decided to “burn the village”?”

    LOL I was there, camp piece of melodrama that it was :D Having said that, I still miss the focus that Dreamless had. I do believe it was a something game changer for online discussion.

  29. Appreciate your thoughts as ever, Jeffrey.

    No fit of pique for me, actually. More like a gradual aha, with a slight wince and sigh at the end. I’ve spent the past year or so reading and writing and doing my level best to chip away at 40 years of belief in the logical fallacy that one’s identity meaning – self-worth, self-image, whatever you want to call it – can accurately be measured in the thoughts of others. Much as you and I may enjoy being encouraged through recognition and praise and dislike being saddened by rejection or indifference (god knows we’re taught to right from the outset by caregivers: good boy, pretty picture, heckuva job Brownie), deriving personal value from these transactions in the absence of a well-formed internal frame of reference through which you can decide on your own what does and doesn’t work, and subsequently accept the opinions of others as feedback, is just plain faulty thinking, of the sort that makes otherwise capable, centred people all loopy and weird.

    That I was running a world-wide web site fuelled by millions of meaningless, microscopic indicators of worth became over time distinctly out of whack with everything I’ve been working on. More on that in a minute.

    I started Favrd solely to furnish me with something amusing to read while waiting in line at the supermarket, calm in the assurance that in doing so I’d never ever see Pete Cashmore’s stupid douchey face or read his stupid douchey toots. It worked great guns and over time, as momentum grew and more people started perking up to the ad hoc format (lonelysandwich called it ‘Twitter as performance’, which I liked very much) and unwritten, self-shaping rules. I knew people like Merlin and yourself, having wisecracked all over the internet for years, would do well; but the people who showed up out of nowhere – IT guy from Dalhousie University; Central American policy wonk; the Tacoma Massive; a squad of drily hilarious, beautifully melancholic women; that barrel-shaped guy from Apple; hundreds more than I can name – I thought for awhile that this was the start of a sort of new upper-middlebrow art form, like headlines from The Onion without all the lorem ipsum underneath. I laughed a lot.

    From the outset, however, some words (THIS and WILL and NOT and SCALE) began gradually piling up on my desk. Long before I began thinking about the damage being done in the use of authoritative judgement as fuel for creativity and wit, I found myself having to work out ways to stave off gaming of the site, in particular dealing with sock puppets and self-starrers and the recent, baffling phenomenon of people finding several hundred things a day to be their ‘favourite’. And then I took a hard look at the stats: the site was getting a million or so pageviews every month, but from a rather small number of unique IPs. As people reflexively refreshed their personal pages, sometimes thousands of times a day, I began to feel like the manager of a comedy club in which comedians crack a joke, then repeatedly run from table to table to stare each patron in the eye, looking for the love.

    Interestingly enough, to me anyway, it was the strong emotional judgement –concerned embarrassment maybe – I was then making toward people’s ‘neediness’ which got me reading and learning a great deal about the interplay of authority and emotion. It’s a fascinating subject, albeit one on which I find myself reading at kindergarten level. As I began to accept the implausibility of my own judgements of others, I spotted something beneath that seemed much darker and trickier to understand: pain. Every wavelet of pleasure set in motion by a site like Favrd sits on an ocean of emotional hurt (the up-fuckedness I so glibly referred to yesterday). I neither blame nor judge anyone for being motivated by attachment or aversion to this sort of pain – I am as much as anyone – but I knew I could no longer have a hand in serving it up.

    Gosh, this got long. Anyway, please don’t take the shut-down as anything other than a shift in my own priorities, manifested in a desire to stop selling crack.

  30. @Dean Allen:

    Beautiful. Thank you for explaining. I remember your telling me about this theory during your visit a few months back.

    Leaderboards can indeed create high levels of emotional pain and pleasure for people seeking external validation. I can fully understand your surprise at watching something you created grow far beyond your expectations—I’ve had that same experience, of course.

    I can also understand (especially now that you’ve explained) your discomfort at the contradiction between your growing personal belief that seeking validation from others is a source of deep unhappiness and other problems, and your discovery that your little site had become a place where many people went in search of external validation.

    All that said, forgive me, but I think it would have been better if you had spoken to the community and made an effort to turn it over to someone else.

    You didn’t do so, it seems, because you believed that your creation had become evil. I applaud your deep feelings, your honesty, and your desire to act in accordance with your beliefs. BUT by not discussing your beliefs with the community (except glibly after shutting off the faucet), by choosing not to initiate a dialog, by choosing to act in accordance with your thoughts and to not hear the thoughts of others, you assumed only your thoughts on the matter had value, and missed the possibility that your creation mattered to people who might not be fucked up, for reasons that might not be fucked up.

    That was a long sentence. Anyway.

    Thanks for listening to my rant so gracefully. You are a good man. Not that you need my validation.

  31. Surely the community was within Twitter, not Favrd? Dean has destroyed the tool that let us play our game, but we all still exist within Twitter, our following lists intact, starring features still enabled. That doesn’t stop just because the validation stops.

    I’m as upset as anyone — I met some great people through Favrd — but everyone is still here, in the same place, doing the same thing. And for those that can’t do without that validation, there is also Favstar. As usual, the behaviour of a relatively small group of people is the reason we can’t have nice things.

    I’m surprised Favrd survived this long. I’d have blitzed it long ago.

  32. The only thing I would fault him for is destroying his archives (to all outward appearances). I’m one of those people who likes to keep everything.

  33. Dean:

    I find it beneficial to consult with others. I don’t mean asking an advisory board every time I need to whiz. But just having a few trusted friends I can speak with before making changes. I’ll assume that we agree on that, and that we know the difference between seeking another’s perspective and demanding validation, and that you did speak to someone before taking your recent action. It’s not my business who you spoke to and I’m not inquiring. Be well, and sorry for my tone earlier. I haven’t used Favrd much in weeks; it’s more the principle that made me angry. I hate when clever, elegant things leave the web.

  34. Joe:

    Yes, maintaining archives is important. And it’s another aspect of this whole discussion about the permanence, value, and ownership of web content. As Sippey says, we’ve been having this conversation since the web started. “Cool URLs don’t change,” let alone vanish—except that they do both.

  35. I wish Dean Allen would not have pulled the plug on Favrd, but he did, and I applaud his rationale for doing so. It was the community which corrupted the vision. It is the community which must heal itself.

    Passing off Favrd to another host would have been easy. Enabling a junkie is easy too. Instead, Dean Allen took the rarely traveled high road. Rather than foment the unhealthy direction Farvd had taken, he forced the community to take a hard look at itself and start over. Take what was good about Farvd and leave what was bad.

    Someone will solve the scalability problem. When they do, Dean Allen will be first in line to help it succeed. The Favrd community was long overdue for this intervention. Now Dean Allen has forced the issue.

    The Favrd community is a strong one. It will not die. It will come out stronger and healthier in the end. Kudos to Dean Allen for having the testicular fortitude to make an unpopular decision for the betterment of the community he loves.

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  37. My mother is a pilot.

    A group of pilots got together online in the Aviation Special Interest Group: AVSIG. A place where pilots could chat about flying and share their common trade & joy.

    The problem was that AVSIG was hosted on the doomed Compuserve service. (Do you remember that?) When Compuserve went the way of the dodo AVSIG lived on. It’s now an online forum with a nominal membership fee. The community exists outside the service.

    I like Favrd. Or rather, I liked it.

    I don’t quite get the hubbub about it’s being shut down. I don’t mind disagreeing with Jeffery: Dean has a right to do anything he’d like with his site & his code. If the community is “real” then they will continue despite the absence of their service provider.

  38. I’m with JZ here – I’ve run a videogame fan site for nine years and although I no longer play the game I keep the thing running because the community needs it to be there.

    It has been the cause of countless incidents of stress over the years – as recently as this weekend when I received over the PlayStation Network a slew of abusive, profanity laiden messages scrawled on pictures taken from my Flickr stream. Stuff like that sucks for sure, but then I see the friendships that have been made on the site that will endure the petty, small stuff.

    If and when I ever feel that I can’t take any more, I’ll hand it over – shutting it down would be criminal.

  39. an effort to turn it over to someone else.

    I did consider it, but I think that would have been hypocritical, with an inevitable side benefit of feeling embarrassed and queasy for whoever ran it, much as I do now for Tim Nice-but-Dim (who, like so many of these Aspy Rails kids, has no clue of what he’s taken on – a puppy chewing an electrical cord) and anyone else who runs such a service. Until, that is, the Twitter UI gang gets off its tuckus and writes the fifteen lines of code it would take to fold real-time fav tracking directly into the main service. Why the retweet thingy is there and this isn’t is beyond me.

    You didn’t do so, it seems, because you believed that your creation had become evil.

    I’m proud as hell of it but things change and please for the love of god don’t make me quote Neil Young! (large smiley, exeunt)

  40. someone up above said

    I’ve put it this way before: As a writer and non-sports watcher, Favrd was my fantasy football.

    Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. Exactly.

    Favrd was my Sunday morning comics. Except daily. And funny.

    Is it naive to hope that Dean can still hand those keys over to someone else? The web cock dresses up and plays phoenix?

  41. The reason that Favrd was awesome and Favstar is not (besides obvious clunky design), is that the people on Favrd were curating something really top notch. Did they fling their stars willy nilly? Maybe, but tweet after tweet were really funny. Favstar is like Walmart. Favrd was more Trader Joe’s. Please don’t kill the bad analogy messenger.

  42. “Some analogies are so off the mark from the reality, they perhaps should not be made.”

    Grab a dictionary, junkies come lots of flavors other than heroin.

  43. Totally agree with what gruber said.

    “That a community may no longer please its creator is hardly relevant. Once community exists, it is not about the person who created the conditions for its existence; it’s about the people who inhabit the space. If you don’t believe that, you have no business creating anything.

    “Cutting users off out of necessity is sad. Cutting them off because you no longer enjoy the community is selfish, short-sighted, and narcissistic. Nothing, not even the tremendous respect and affection I bear for the talented Mr Allen, can make me see it any other way.”

  44. If you don’t like what some people are doing with your community, there are ways to deal with that, too. You don’t have to blow up the submarine because some people are farting in it.

    Jeffrey, best quote ever. That made my day.

  45. “Some analogies are so off the mark from the reality, they perhaps should not be made.”

    That is absolutely rich coming from someone who compared Dean to “an angry Hebrew God”.

  46. For me, stumbling upon Favrd was finding the rabbit hole to Wonderland.

    I want to go back.

    And not just because this custom-made Alice dress cost me a fortune.

  47. Not belittling grief it causes, but the web does benefit from some things like Favrd meeting irrevocable ends. That disappearance makes room for new things and new migrations — both on the web, and amongst the people who are propelled to create / move.

    Also, needing to remember something that is gone (nowhere to be found) is part of having focus / perspective as an individual or community.

  48. (who, like so many of these Aspy Rails kids, has no clue of what he’s taken on – a puppy chewing an electrical cord)

    Oh, come on. While I partially identify with the ‘problem user’ you mentioned in your first comment (refresh, refresh, refresh), did you need to make this a technology issue?

  49. When I first read this article I was in agreement with Jeffrey’s initial voice.

    “How dare he take this away! What kind of coward takes away the light without telling anyone why or passing the torch?”

    Then I read Dean’s first response. Some light was shed. Things got unwieldily and it turned into a beast that was enabling what the creator felt were unhealthy attractions.

    I did some digging around and found the original birth of favrd off Dean’s site. Honest, attractive goal. Not quite inline with what Dean felt favrd turned into.

    I’m on the fence. On one hand, you have the social of the site. The hours people put into it, the ownership they feel, the enjoyment they have. On the other hand, you have someone with the kill switch, and final decision of it’s future. Dean enabled favrd, it’s as much his right to disable it.

    If Mark turned off Facebook, would people burn him at the stake?

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  51. Turning Facebook off might just cause the sort of productivity bump our economy needs to pull out of this recession.

    I say that as someone ignoring work in order to post a comment.

  52. I agree with Dean on his point about Twitter not doing the job of Fav* internally. Surely it’s as justified as the (well done) Retweet method. Such might also put an end to deep crawling via the API, thus saving site traffic at Twitter and abroad.

  53. I never used Favrd. I think I visited it a few times, read a few interesting tweets and then moved on. Now that so many people are mourning its passing I wonder if perhaps I missed a trick, but I’m also learning more about what was wrong with it. However if there’s one thing I’ve heard people say about it that resonated it’d be that they met interesting people through it.

    The whole leaderboard dynamic was clearly a false-starter. As soon as you start to quantify the value of something as inherently subjective as written language it was always going to get silly buggers running around trying to game it; that’s human nature (i.e. lots of people are asshats). But I would argue focusing on the number of favourites any given tweet may accrue isn’t and should never have been a visible part of the workings of the site.

    I’d like to propose a solution. Something that would bring Favrd back to the table and make it useful again, without any reason for Dean to feel like he was enabling antisocial behaviour. Make it about the people whose words interest you; refocus it on the reason we use Twitter — to listen to what interesting, thoughtful, witty, intelligent and amusing people have to say. I’ve been giving it some thought today; the underlying mechanics of Twitter already support what we need, basically something akin to’s (admittedly nontrivial) recommendations engine, whereby the people you follow and the things you favourite can be used as data to drive further recommendations to others. It doesn’t matter whether a comment has five favourites or a thousand; what matters is whether or not it’s of interest to you.

    Of course it won’t be easy. I’m sure somebody will try and game it, but at least those individuals will be the obviously malicious, rather than the average Joes who’ve just found themselves unwittingly trapped in game of one-upmanship. But maybe if it works, it could help everybody who feel like they’ve lost something in Favrd regain that feeling of connection to the people that matter.

  54. Guy makes site. Guy runs site. Guy is done with site and shuts it down.

    People who used to go site get angry because they should have been consulted? Or it should have been turned over to them?

    Strip away the silly talk and that’s what this boils down to. Get over it. It was his site to do with as he pleases and frankly, I think Mr. Allen went far beyond what was required in posting another, more detailed explanation.

  55. Came for the insight, stayed for the Dreamless name drop (that void has actually been filled by another private community, Jeffrey; we’ve got fewer e-celebrities now).

    I can’t say I’m sad to see Favrd go. It provided me, at best, with a handful of chuckles, and one or two bits of genuine human insight. Otherwise it seemed, at least when I came to it relatively late, much like Dean’s comedy club analogy would suggest, except perhaps a tad more repetitive even than that. This post is the first time I’ve heard it referred to as a ‘community’, and it never would have occurred to me to think of it as such.

    Best of luck to you, Mr. Allen, and for God’s sake say hi to Gail for me.

  56. From my point of view Dean has done a bigger favr for everyone with this action, his comments on it, and the discussion he’s provoked than Favrd ever provided. I see similarly destructive pain-generating and compulsiveness-producing dynamics in measures like Tumblarity and the various follower-pimping scenes at all the other usual sites and servics. I had checked out Favrd and signed up for it early on, but after a few visits I felt a strong revulsion that I now see reflected in Deans decision to pull the plug. The little poison cookies of sarcasm, cynicism, self-loathing, insult-dogging, and jokey transgressiveness that added up to Favrd stars and their cheerleading squads were way too often a corruption of language, sentiment, emotion, and anything like honesty. The notion that this was “community” or that the world needs an archive of that shit is crazy.

  57. It’s not like a web community is a physical thing you can hand over to someone else to “save”.

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  60. This argument fascinates me, because I’m trying to see how it plays out in the real world. Based on comments from Mr. Dean Allen, here’s the analogy I would give for the situation.

    A man, being an enjoyer of alchohol himself, opens a bar. He does a good job, and soon he has a strong regular clientele, full of people who also enjoy a good drink. The man notices after some time, though, that a few of his customers are substituting drink for true happiness. The man thinks about it, and can no longer view his bar in the same way. One day, the regular patrons discover the the doors have been bolted shut. Around town, the complaint becomes common: “He should have talked with us before shutting the bar down. It was our bar, too, after all. He could have sold the bar to Earl. I’m sure Earl would have taken over for him.”

    As I roll this scenario around in my mind, I wonder if this would [have] happen[ed] with a brick and mortar establishment. In a small town, maybe, where there is only one place to go?

    There is the concept of “An Institution,” that is, something that has been a part of the community so long that it is as if the community owns it. This has even been applied to people: for example, the local pharmacist who has been working at the same pharmacy for 50 years. Can a one year old web site come to be “An Institution?”

  61. I’ll concur with Daniel Jalkut’s comment on twitter: “Best thing about the end of Favrd is @textism’s rationale helped me re-align some of my own priorities.” Dean, you are a gentleman and a scholar.

    But while I can see your point of view, I can also see Jeffrey’s. I used Favrd like emdot: it was my saturday morning funnies. I see the cracks now that you point them out, but I’m not sure if I would have, had you not. I do wonder how many of the visitors fell into that category.

  62. Why doesn’t someone just build a new one? I’m confused. It seems like it would take a week of a good rails developer’s time, unless I’m way off. I thought that’s the way this whole internet thing works.

  63. Perhaps he could have cultivated Favrds value rather than define it as its very worst elements. He could hand it off to people more willing to grow it and shepherd it in a positive direction, but instead it sounds like he intends to bury it, he seems certain that ‘selling crack’ is *the way* to define it, certain in his own dry psychological assessment of its users. Unlike crack, Favrd brings a tremendous amount of joy to the world and encourages creativity, and while it may have a dark element the net achievement of Favrd was positive and delightful. I do not disagree that the need for an audience, for applause, for readers, for validation to an artist, to a performer, may be complicated and not entirely healthy, and may have its root in a deep undercurrent of pain that perhaps can be defined in psychology textbooks as disorder, but the creation of art is a *positive* result of human suffering, the finest art and beauty and creativity often grow from pain, and the artist’s need for audience, readers, approval is nothing new and very often accompanies the creative life, nothing modern about it. Do we close the museums and bookstores because the artists were not perfectly fulfilled happy individuals exhibiting consistently healthy behaviors? Do you shut down the publishing house because drug addicts and drunks and other damaged souls have been driven to write books and grow readers? Favrd or no Favrd makes no difference to the pain that is as old as time. All you’ve done by pulling the plug is taken away an outlet for creativity, you have not ended suffering or cured anyone’s addiction problems.

  64. Lisa, your comment really isn’t helpful and, to the extent I can read 999 words in a single graf, seems to boil down to “Somebody other than the creator has an opinion that differs from his, so how dare he?

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  66. Apologies to Tim for the snark above; I admit that was quite out of line.

    Glad you said that, Dean. The comment shocked me and is also untrue. The Tim I’m beginning to know is an enthusiastic creative web person much like you and I, and behaves like a professional in the best senses of that word (respectful of others, etc.)

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  68. Wow until I read all of these comments and various other posts on peoples’ tumblrs I did not realize how badly I was devaluing my stars and generally being a jerkoff by checking out Favrd a lot and giving people I like a lot of stars, which they liked getting! I see now that I deserved to be judged for my emotional neediness, and that it was shut down for our own good.

  69. Favorite bands of mine break up all the time. They don’t ask me or the legions of fans they have beforehand if it’s okay. It’s usually because the singer was a dick or two band members became romantically linked and unlinked and screwed it up. It’s life. A new band comes along that I like soon enough.

    I’d probably care more if my tweets were funnier.

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  71. I find Joe Clark’s dismissal of Lisa’s comment unpleasant (why so haughty?) and off the mark. She was making a useful point in trying to expand Dean Allen’s reasoning to other, similar areas of human culture where creators seek and interact with an audience.

    One reading of Allen’s rationale for shutting down Favrd is: “People create things as a way of assuaging their pain with approval from an audience. I think this is unhealthy, therefore I will destroy this thing I have created which helped creators find their audience.”

    What I think Lisa was saying was that beautiful creations (including funny tweets!) have had their origins in human emotional pain since always, as far as we can tell from the history of human culture. And that creators have sought an audience and been fueled off that audience’s approval for just as long — while we may wish for art to be created only for itself, that doesn’t seem to be the way it works most of the time. Maybe it’s not actually possible for such social creatures as humans to create only for themselves.

    So instead of viewing the painful origin as tainting the beautiful creation, it’s possible to view the beautiful creation as a lucky outcome of unavoidable human pain — to be thankful for the glorious creations, instead of feeling queasy about them because their origins aren’t “pure” enough.

    Viewed in that light, deciding to shut down a service that helped creators find their audience because you think that it’s really unhealthy of them to need an audience at all seems like punishing people for what you see as their weaknesses, rather than loving them for the beauty they create even if they “sin” in their motivations for creating. An “angry Hebrew god” indeed!

  72. @Greg: Yes. Thank you.

    If Mr. Allen thought what he created had become in some way unhealthy and felt compelled to bring it to an end, doing so is what I call “being responsible.” And if he felt strong enough to shut Favrd down, epsecially for the reasons he mentioned, it makes sense to not simply turn it over to someone else for continuation. Is doing the responsible thing always easy, or popular? Of course not. That being said, I’m sure more of a heads-up would have been appreciated. But can we say any feelings of moral obligation on his part are outweighed by the desire of visitors to keep finding what they’re looking for? No. Saying, “If you don’t want to get burned, don’t play with fire” sounds so cliche here, but such is the risk of taking any online offering to heart. This applies to community members and creators across the board.

  73. Regarding comments such as these:

    “It was his site to do with as he pleases.”
    “Dean enabled favrd, it’s as much his right to disable it.”
    “Dean has a right to do anything he’d like with his site & his code.”
    “…it is Dean’s website/application/thing and he is welcome to do with it as he sees fit.”

    Applying a justification in hindsight doesn’t teach us anything about making decisions as we go. I suggest the takeaway lessons here are forward-looking ones:

    If you want to create a Web community, be aware from the outset that you can’t control it — it will grow and change.

    So will you. And eventually the magic may be gone and you’ll need to part.

    So, have an exit plan and handover strategy in place.

    If that approach is not acceptable to you, don’t do communal projects. Write a blog.

  74. I support Dean Allen’s right to shut down Favrd as a result of it becoming, in his estimation, unhealthy. An added benefit to the shut-down is the foregoing conversation. It has given me much insight into community devolution and the behind–the-scenes machinations which led to the shut-down.

    I still see the original inner sanctum of the Farvd community being the heart of the problem. They fought their way into the club and promptly set up the velvet rope. When people snuck in the back, the inner sanctum merely complained, rather than seek solutions. The solutions were there, but they threatened to undermine and dilute the power of the inner sanctum.

    The problem did not arise overnight. The shutdown should come as a no surprise. It is those currently voicing the loudest condemnations who were best positioned to address the issues which led to the shut-down. It is they who failed to act when they had the chance. As such, I have little sympathy for their current indignation.

  75. These comments have become unwieldy and out of control. I hope to God Zeldman will have the good sense to delete them all very soon.

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  77. it’s incorrect to say that dean took away people’s opportunity to be creative. twitter still exists and everyone can still keep making their jokes. perhaps twitter needs a way to surface those jokes. isn’t that what lists are for? all dean took away was the popularity index or instant gratification.

    any social media – blogs, forums, communities, twitter, facebook – they are all ego fueled. always have been. there’s a pay off or people wouldn’t participate. twitter is so telling. one person i follow is very insecure and constantly uses twitter to portray herself as desirable to men because she knows her ex reads her stream. i had to unfollow one person because while his tweets were very funny, there was an air of desperation to them. he really needs people to like his jokes, to the point of offering prizes if he received more stars than one of his friends. then there are the travelers – always complaining about flights and airports and weather – but the subtext is “someone thinks i’m important enough to fly me around the country”. it’s a fascinating study.

    dean is just maintaining his personal integrity. he’s listening to his internal voice which is the only one that matters.

  78. It has taken me a few weeks to comment on this post. Part of me wishes that by ignoring it being gone, it will just come back.

    I still get to see my friends, I still get to give them props for their post, I still get to contribute to a community… but it feels like a forced family reunion trying to replicate what once was.

    Just wanted to say I miss it, and thank everyone for making it brilliant.

  79. Thank you Z for providing a place for this wonderful discussion.

    I would like to take advantage of this space to thank Dean Allen for creating and providing such a great site, for as long as he did.

    I admire someone who uses their creative talents to provide such a wonderful entertainment that people were brought together and community(s) were formed around it.

    May your future endeavors be so successful.


  80. I do not recognize the meaning of the word community as it’s used in this thread. Just think about what community is to y’all, just a little bit. Really. Ben Darlow pointd out the inherent flaw in Favrd succinctly:

    “The whole leaderboard dynamic was clearly a false-starter. As soon as you start to quantify the value of something as inherently subjective as written language it was always going to get silly buggers running around trying to game it; that’s human nature (i.e. lots of people are asshats). But I would argue focusing on the number of favourites any given tweet may accrue isn’t and should never have been a visible part of the workings of the site.”

    How would a daily leaderboard NOT create a competition and provide the conditions for the very same creatures Cameron now denigrates? C’mon. Seriously. Can anyone say myopic?

    Now the whole “community” clusters around Favstar and whatever the next site is. Systems may change, but people remain unspectacularly the same.

    That’s the only sad part of this fiasco — not the loss Favrd, not the angst and silent suffering of St. Dean Cameron Allen, kind and generous genius, the Jesus who had to sacrifice himself for the sins of the unwashed masses.

  81. A few thoughts….

    1. Considering the impact of losing one’s community, there is not a nasty flame to be found in the comments; even the negative ones are written civil manner. -Is this a reflection of the Favrd community — if so, that is a great accomplishment in itself.

    2. The discussion on this blog could not have taken place if Favrd was still in operation. Or to put it another way:: “you may can speculate how you ‘might’ feel to have one of your legs whacked off — but you can not ‘really-know’ — until you have one of your legs whacked off for real.”

    3. I think both sides of the “close-Favrd” / “don’t-close-Favrd” issue have equal value; the arguments presented here reflect that. Sometimes it is hard to see the the value both sides of an issue; -it is difficult to ignore our emotional center — and it is impossible — if all of our beliefs are an end product of emotional filtering.

    4. This comment posed by ‘navanax’ on 23 December 2009 at 6:03 pm earns my utmost respect. It is brief, concise, and sincere:

    “Thank you Z for providing a place for this wonderful discussion.

    I would like to take advantage of this space to thank Dean Allen for creating and providing such a great site, for as long as he did.

    I admire someone who uses their creative talents to provide such a wonderful entertainment that people were brought together and community(s) were formed around it.

    May your future endeavors be so successful.


    Isn't that wonderful… doesn't that make all of us feel good inside.

    "But doesn't the poster have personal feelings about the 'decision' to close Favrd?" -Of course.
    "Why were they not posted here?" -Perhaps the poster's positive feelings far outweighed the negative ones; maybe the poster is just a polite person; perhaps the poster believes a person should not be criticized for their possible failures at the same time they are being patted on the back of their accomplishments.
    "Do we have to figure out the motives of considerate people?" -No we do not — but we can ask ourselves, "How do we measure up to their example".

    Well, as Dean said, "Gosh this got long."

    (…oh…and yes, I have had my leg whacked off ;-)

    dennis_strain (at) hotmail (dot) com

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